(1573-1610). Probably the most revolutionary artist of his time,
the Italian painter Caravaggio abandoned the rules that had guided a century
of artists before him. They had idealized the human and religious experience.
He was born Michelangelo Merisi on Sept. 28, 1573, in Caravaggio, Italy.
As an adult he would become known by the name of his birthplace. Orphaned at
age 11, he was apprenticed to the painter Simone Peterzano of Milan for four
years. At some time between 1588 and 1592, Caravaggio went to Rome and worked
as an assistant to painters of lesser skill. About 1595 he began to sell his
paintings through a dealer. The dealer brought Caravaggio to the attention of
Cardinal Francesco del Monte.
Through the cardinal, Caravaggio was commissioned, at age 24, to paint for
the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. In its Contarelli Chapel Caravaggio's
realistic naturalism first fully appeared in three scenes he created of the
life of St. Matthew. The works caused public outcry, however, because of
their realistic and dramatic nature.